A MATTER OF POLITICS
The political pot boiled over last week:
?After Mexico again refused to play South Africa in Davis Cup competition, the U.S. quit the organization because it would not adopt a U.S.-supported resolution to impose sanctions on countries that refuse for political reasons to play a match.
?The Organization of African Unity said its member states would boycott the Montreal Olympics if New Zealand is not banned for letting its national rugby team play in South Africa.
?There were reports that the International Olympic Committee had warned Canada it might cancel the Opening Ceremonies, refuse to give out medals and deny Montreal permission to use the word "Olympic" in connection with its Games because the Canadians said they would not let athletes from Taiwan compete as "The Republic of China."
Politics in sport. Deplorable. As Joseph E. Carrico of the U.S. Tennis Association said last week, "We find it intolerable to mix politics with tennis."
Or, presumably, with any other sport.
But the problem is, if we are against politics in sport, can the U.S. withdrawal from the Davis Cup be applauded? Even though it was a protest against political gestures by Mexico, it is in itself a political move. If we approve it, we are approving America's political stance in this sporting controversy, not disapproving the intrusion of politics into sport.
But maybe that's a good idea. Maybe it's time to recognize that politics and sport are inextricably entwined. Maybe we should have recognized this earlier. The African states were angry at New Zealand months ago because of the visit of a South African softball team to that country. They threatened to boycott the Olympics if a scheduled tour of South Africa by New Zealand's national rugby team took place and New Zealand was not subsequently barred from the Olympic Games. John Buckingham, president of the New Zealand Federation of Sport, came to the U.S. this May seeking support from U.S. athletic authorities against the threatened African action. And he got it—from such people as Donald Miller and Julian Roosevelt of the U.S. Olympic Committee and Casey Conrad of the President's Committee on Physical Fitness.
If Miller, Roosevelt and Conrad had political savvy, they might have told Buckingham, "For God's sake, cool it. Slow things down. Back off a little." Instead, while the black African countries were seething with fury over the riots that had taken place around Johannesburg, the New Zealand rugby team blithely popped over to South Africa as though nothing had happened. It's one thing to keep politics out of sport; it's another to be that insensitive about it.